By Marion Ali
Belize lost one of its most recognizable legends of dance this week in the person of Rosita Baltazar, 54.
She was a dancer for many years before she became a dance instructor and artistic director with the Belize Dance Company.
Baltazar died at her Los Lagos home on Monday, July 6th, after a three-year battle with cancer.
The dancer, who led a quiet life, put smiles on many people’s faces through her dancing. She lit up the stage, as many of her fans will attest. She spent more than two decades choreographing and performing in the spotlight on stages in the US, Europe and Central America, earning the respect of a wide cross-section of people along the way.
Her most recent title was dance instructor, and even though her illness eventually took a toll on her, she remained positive and committed to the children and people she taught.
She opened her own dance school last September and continued to work with the Belize Dance Company.
The dancing legend started her career in the 1980’s with the then Leo Mar Dance Group. She then captured the attention of an American dance instructor who came to Belize and offered her and four other well-known Belizean dancers scholarships to study dance in the United States.
Upon her return, Baltazar co-founded the Belize National Dance Company (now the Belize Dance Company) in 1990 and has been with the group in different capacities, up to the time of her death.
Her career took her on more dance fellowships in Cuba, Mexico, England, and Jamaica, but while at home, she continued to teach the finer details of folk, modern and classical dance.
As artistic director of the Belize Dance Company, Baltazar planned and organized numerous concerts, came up with the concepts and themes for them, choreographed hundreds of presentations, and appeared as well as part of the shows.
She worked tirelessly with groups that took part in the annual band fest as well, and up until about a month ago, was involved in the planning of the Belize Dance Company’s upcoming 25th anniversary dance concert, scheduled for November 5th and 6th, an event dubbed “Birth and Passages”, a theme she helped to devise.
Baltazar’s last concert took place last month and her final stage appearance was on April 6th – a solo dance aptly entitled, “Our Father”.
A devout Catholic, Baltazar occasionally performed liturgical dances at the Holy Redeemer Cathedral, where she was an active member.
The dance legend first became aware of her medical condition in September of 2012, while she was in Spain on a European tour with the dance company. Doctors who examined her detected that something was wrong and referred her to specialists. She was flown to England, to one of her sisters, and it was there that the diagnosis of breast cancer was confirmed.
The members of the Belize Dance Company, organized a number of benefit concerts to assist her upon their return from Europe. She had been in remission until 2014, when the cancer returned.
She fell ill three weeks ago and was hospitalized. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. Through it all, those close to her say she remained positive. She faced life’s challenges with the motto: “To live is to dance”.
The funeral service for Rosita Baltazar will take place at the Holy Redeemer Cathedral starting at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, July 10th, following an hour-long liturgical tribute in her memory.
She will be laid to rest in Punta Gorda, where she grew up and attended school before relocating in Belize as a teen.
Managing Director of the Belize Dance Company, Denise Enriquez, told The Reporter this week that the dance company and the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) are discussing giving Baltazar permanent recognition for her invaluable contribution to dance in Belize.
Rosita Baltazar’s graceful and athletic movements on the stage are best described by Dolores Balderamos Garcia in her January 17, 2015 article, which appeared in the Belize Times entitled “Kudos, Rosita Baltazar!!”
In the article, Balderamos-Garcia described Baltazar as “pure poetry in motion. …There is something intangible yet quintessentially artistic in her expression. The toss of her head, the point of her toes, the presentation of her body in motion has always held that extra ‘oomph’ of beauty, and she therefore stands out head and shoulders above her sister and fellow dancers in any selection.”